The military’s new suggestion box

Army looks to a surprising source of technical expertise—soldiers

 This month the GCN Lab’s own Trudy Walsh interviewed Maj. Keith Parker, who showed us all the gizmos that go with Army Knowledge Online’s (AKO) new Go Mobile Program. He had many interesting things to say about this new initiative, which Trudy will cover in the Dec. 14 issue of GCN.

But one thing the major said really caught my attention. He said that in order to get equipment for the program that performs as well as possible, the AKO took suggestions from soldiers in the field as to what would work best, and—get this—actually acted upon those suggestions.

This struck me as the biggest sign yet that the armed forces are changing, even more than the advanced equipment that Parker was demonstrating. Of course, since field personnel are the ones who have to use the devices, and certainly are the ones who have the most hands-on knowledge of the technology, it makes complete sense to listen to their ideas when implementing a new program. It’s just sometimes the folks in charge, whether in the military or business, don’t realize that.

If this initiative goes as well as it seems to be going, this may usher in a new age of bottom-up planning in the armed forces. Gone will be the days of the “you’re not paid to think,” “shut up and sit down,” and “one size fits all” military mentality that may have been true at one point, but certainly has long pervaded movies and cartoons. I’m pretty sure that this outdated mentality has been slowly fading away from the actual ranks of the armed forces for a while now.

Just don’t tell the guy who draws “Beetle Bailey.”

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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